Riverdale Season 7’s Treatment of Tabitha Tate Is Utterly Unacceptable

TV Features Riverdale
Riverdale Season 7’s Treatment of Tabitha Tate Is Utterly Unacceptable

Upon her introduction on The CW’s Riverdale, following the seven-year time jump in Season 5 that accompanied the characters’ high school graduation, Tabitha Tate (Erinn Westbrook) instantly proved herself as the piece of the puzzle we, the audience, never even knew was missing.

She arrived in town to take over Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe from her grandfather, though instantly began to struggle with keeping the business afloat as the town was dying. From there, she became entwined in the respective mysteries that Betty (Lili Reinhart) and Jughead (Cole Sprouse) were investigating, developing a romance with the latter along the way. This brought her even further into the inner circle than she would have been otherwise, which was truly terrific to watch. We instantly fell in love with Tabitha, but it was Season 6 that showed what a force she was, and how much she had to offer this show as a character in her own right. Then, Riverdale Season 7 screwed her over.

The sixth season found the characters facing off against supernatural antagonist Percival Pickens (Chris O’Shea), a demon from the Rivervale realm that made his way into the real world after the botched bombing at the Andrews residence. Alongside him were inexplicable powers gifted to the characters, like Archie (KJ Apa) being invulnerable and Veronica (Camila Mendes) having the kiss of death. In this fight, Tabitha became the town’s secret weapon. At first, it seemed like she had chronokinetic abilities, but was later revealed that she was literally Riverdale’s guardian angel with quite a few other abilities at her disposal. As such, Tabitha became tasked with trying to find a way to stop Percival, sifting through timelines as she searched for answers. Though she was the newcomer in town, Tabitha devoted herself to saving it as much as—if not more so—those who had lived there all their lives, giving her all to the fight.

Tabitha proved herself to be the heart of the show and the town. She cemented her importance to this narrative. She became an invaluable member of the group, developing deep and heartfelt relationships with nearly everyone on the show. Her romance with Jughead blossomed into, arguably, the series’ most beautiful relationship. It was hard to imagine how we had ever sat through an episode of Riverdale without Tabitha Tate as a main character. Then, after Percival was stopped, he changed the course of Bailey’s Comet to collide with Riverdale and cause an extinction-level event, forcing Tabitha to use her powers once more. In the end, despite their best efforts, Percival’s plan succeeded, though Tabitha was able to transport everyone back to the ‘50s at the last minute. Thus came the beginning of injustice. 

In the Season 7 premiere, Westbrook appears as two versions of Tabitha. The first is ‘50s Tabitha, who works with Toni (Vanessa Morgan) and others to spread the message about Emmett Till. Later, Angel Tabitha arrives at Pop’s to wipe Jughead’s memories of their former lives in order to keep him from going mad while she sifts through tangled timelines to find an answer about how to return to the present day and save their town from Percival. Both Tabithas leave town, and when Westbrook returns as ‘50s Tabitha seven episodes later, it’s revealed in the credits that she’s been demoted from series regular to special guest star. Out of the 14 episodes to air of the 20-episode season, Tabitha has only been present—though not necessarily in any substantive way—for three.

Regardless of the reasons for Westbrook’s demotion, as nothing has been stated by any party involved, the way the series has treated Tabitha in this final season is absolutely loathsome and truly disrespectful. Establishing the character as an integral part of the series, showcasing her beautiful romance with Jughead, and then writing her off with little to no thought or care as to how it impacts the character is unacceptable. Characters such as Ethel (Shannon Purser) and Julien (Nicholas Barasch) have been given more important, thoughtful roles in the current ‘50s storyline than Tabitha. When Tabitha is present, she’s simply a supporting player in others’ stories, rather than the formidable main character we were watching last season.

Plus, it seems like everything Angel Tabitha is supposedly doing off-screen is for naught. Despite leaving Jughead with the “bend towards justice” message, Riverdale has completely forgotten about this, choosing instead to push forward and ignore everything that has come before in favor of the ‘50s timeline. At this point, we know Angel Tabitha won’t be able to return the characters to their former lives, as Mädchen Amick confirmed to Decider. Based on behind-the-scenes content released by the cast, it’s also up in the air about whether she will be able to reclaim the life she left behind, including her romance and future with Jughead, which would truly be a despicable move.

It’s absolutely devastating to see how little the writers seem to care about Tabitha, and the legacy of this wondrous and impactful character. If the writers had no choice but to write Westbrook out, there were better routes to go down for Tabitha (and the audience) without minimizing her role and impact on the show. There has been little thought put into how to respect Tabitha and what she sacrificed to save everyone. ‘50s Tabitha is nice, too, but it’s not the same knowing she isn’t the character we had been watching for the last two seasons. And, she doesn’t have the so-called “emotional memory” the writers were going on and on about when the season started—though it doesn’t really feel like that exists for anyone other than Cheryl (Madelaine Petsch) and Toni at this point.

Tabitha (and Westbrook) deserved better than for Riverdale to all but entirely pretend that she wasn’t a core piece of the story for the last two seasons. The fans deserve better than to have this beautiful character ignored and written out for so much of the final season. Tabitha and Jughead’s relationship worked so well, with the characters complementing one another in the best ways, and to ignore that and not use these final episodes to continue showcasing the couple is blasphemous. There are many issues with the final season, but the exclusion of Tabitha Tate is perhaps the largest, one that will leave a lasting mark on the legacy of this show.

Jay Snow is a freelance writer. He has published many places on the internet. For more of his thoughts on television and to see his other work (or to simply watch him gush again and again over his love for the original Charmed) follow him @snowyjay.

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

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